Supernumerary teachers?

Some commentators are suggesting that schools might not want to employ NQTs for September, preferring rather to take on more experienced classroom practitioners to fill any vacancies. I can understand this view, but leaving aside the issue of whether existing teachers will want or be able to change jobs at this time, there is the more basic question about whether or not such teachers will be available even now in some subjects?

I quite understand the view that trainee teachers, especially whose long practice wasn’t completed before the closure of schools came into effect, have less experience than might be expected at the point a school would recruit them. Nevertheless, they still have more time on task than a school Direct Salaried recruit and, I suspect, in most case someone starting the Teach First programme.

For undergraduate trainee primary teachers, they almost certainly will have had the full time in schools, and should not be over-looked. After all, they started training when demand for primary school teachers was buoyant and now find themselves in a very different world.

With significant amounts of student loan debt, the most recent graduates training to be a teacher are in the worst position. Those career changes, with lower levels of loans, already partially or fully paid off, are in a somewhat better position.

So, what is to be done? With smaller classes, schools will need more teachers.  Should the government fund a scheme to allow for all trainees without a post for September to be allocated to a school, at least until the end of the autumn term?

How much more would it cost for such a scheme than paying and administering benefits to these trainees that started their programmes in a time when most could have had an expectation of a teaching role at the end of their courses.

Making them supernumerary would ensure that they can keep developing their skills and practicing in schools while the job market sorts itself out. New entrants have advantages in terms of their degree knowledge, if straight from university, and may be equipped to understand the best in new technology and learning strategies.

Using these trainees as supernumerary staff also has the benefit of ensuring that if there is a second wave of the virus in the autumn, schools may have the staff to cover for absences due to other staff members self-isolating for whatever reason.

Such a scheme might also be a way of encouraging schools to re-open where there are currently concerns for the future.

Whatever the way forward, we must not abandon the current class of trainees to their fate in an uncertain world.

TeachVac is doing its bit by offering a low price webinar about how to succeed in the job market. Details at https://www.careeradviceforteachers.co.uk/

A new world in recruitment

There is a saying that ‘necessity is the parent of invention’. So it has proved to be during this pandemic. Video conferencing may come to be the next big breakthrough. Not perhaps on the scale of email or mobile phones, but, as the technology is refined, becoming something that will alter both our private and public lives in a way society wouldn’t have believed just two months ago. For instance, how soon before clothes retailers ensure garments will fit the wearer when viewed on-line and cannot then be returned as ‘the wrong size’?

There will also be profound effects on teaching and learning at all levels. In England, the responsibility for education has always remained with the parent or parents, and schooling by the State has been the default offering if a parent chose no other method of education. How that contract between the State and its citizens will develop in this, the 150th year of state supplied schooling, is yet to be determined, but a heck of a lot of invention has been taking place very rapidly.

All this came to mind as I reflected upon the future for TeachVac, the free matching service for teaching jobs and those looking for such a vacancy. Launched six years ago next month, the aim was then, as it still is, to demonstrate that technology could create a viable and low cost platform to bring together schools wanting teachers and teachers looking for jobs.

Well, TeachVac has proved that it can be done for little more than £2 per vacancy. Of course, schools still don’t believe that is possible and spend large amount of money with paid for platforms because they have offered the largest number of visitors to their sites. During a period of teacher shortages, such an approach made some sense, although it would probably have been cheaper to persuade those looking for jobs to move to the free platform that required the least amount of effort on the part of schools.

However, we are now in a different world. With predictions of mass unemployment and future funding for public services unlikely to be as generous as we would wish, especially if the government has to bail out the economy, schools may see a rush of applicants for any vacancy. So, why pay for an advert that attracts so many applicants that it wastes time and costs money short-listing?

A premium site, in terms of quality that is free at the point of use and requires as little efforts as possible, at least for a first advert is a much better proposition. Schools that have the cash to spare can continue to use paid-for services, but others might choose between sites such as the DfE’s, where some effort is required to upload a job, and those, such as TeachVac, where all that is required is to put the vacancy on the school’s own web site.

Of course, teachers and, especially trainees are now in a different position. Instead of having the pick of jobs, they might be competing with many more candidates for fewer vacancies, especially if teachers in post stay put. TeachVac can be tailored to meet the needs of the training sector. Perhaps by offering a 24 hour period of exclusivity for classroom teacher posts before matching them all potential candidates?

As a bonus, we are also dusting off our course on how to apply for a job’ and turning it into an on-line version ready for those that need a bit of support in this new world. Watch out for details of our first webinar next week.

 

10 Adverts per school in 2019

The average secondary school has placed 10 adverts for teachers during 2019. The figure is higher for most schools in London and the Home Counties and lower for many schools in the north of England.

The data are from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the leading job boards for teachers looking for posts anywhere in England.

Of course, the average is a crude measure, as it isn’t related to the size of the school in terms of its pupil population. There are schools with more than 2,000 pupils and also at the opposite end of the scale there are those with only a few hundred pupils.

Once the year is over, TeachVac will link the number of vacancies to the pupil roll of the school, as supplied by the DfE in its data, and compare the outcome with indicators such as the percentage of pupils with Free School Meals. As TeachVac has data for several years, it will be possible to start to identify trends and whether there are certain types of school where staff turnover is more common.

Of course, now that the number of pupils entering secondary schools is on the increase, and there are also new schools being established, the picture is not as clear cut as if it were a steady state in relation to the size of the secondary school population.

The data also reveals how the demand for teachers corresponds to the supply, at least for new entrants. Data on returners seeing work is still patchy, and a national register might be a useful tool for the new government to consider.

After all, what is the point of training teachers if there are also returners willing to work as teachers? As I have said before on this blog, enticing mature entrants into teaching and then not offering them work is a wasteful misuse of human resources. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the Humanities.

There are far more history and geography trainees than required by schools. History trainees, unless lucky to be on Teach First or School Direct Salaried Scheme, have to pay fees and find the cost of looking after themselves during their training, all this expenditure with no guarantee of a job.

This year, 2019-2020, according to DfE figures, some 178 history trainees are being supported by public funds (65 on School Direct Salaried Scheme and 113 on Teach First). By comparison, some 1400+ trainees are using student loans and other funds to train as a teacher.

With such over-recruitment into training, it isn’t clear why the government allowed spending on 178 history trainees at a cost of perhaps £400,000 of public money? That’s unnecessary public expenditure. Add in those 130 geography and PE trainees also on salary schemes, subjects where supply of trainees also exceeds demand for teachers, and the cost to the public purse is well over half a million pounds.

The current hybrid system of training teachers looks overdue for a re-think. Whether it will get one from the next government is probably unlikely while planning for Brexit continues to dominate the agenda.

 

Regional differences in teacher vacancy levels

By the end of 2019, schools in England will have advertised around 60,000 vacancies for teachers. After removing repeat adverts and re-advertisements, as well as schools now placing rolling adverts on their web sites to attract potential candidates, there will have been somewhere in excess of 50,000 vacancies that schools across England have sought to fill this year. The data comes for TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the largest free site for both schools and teachers in England.

However, anyone seeking a classroom teacher post this year will have discovered that there are important differences between the different regions of England in terms of how easy it has been to find a teaching post.

Percentage of total vacancies for teachers January-October 2019

Region % of Vacancies % of Schools
London 21 16 More Vacancies
South East 21 17 More Vacancies
East England 13 12 More Vacancies
North West 9 12 Less Vacancies
South West 9 10 Less Vacancies
West Midlands 9 11 Less Vacancies
East Midlands 8 8 Same
Yorkshire & Humber 7 9 Less Vacancies
North East 3 4 Less Vacancies

Less Vacancies

Source: TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk (From November onwards vacancies for September 2020 start appearing, as well as a few last minute vacancies for January 2020 as a result of unforeseen events)

There is a clear difference in demand for teachers between London and the Home Counties and the rest of England. London, in particular, has five per cent more of the share of vacancies than its share of schools across England. This is despite London having an above average number of private schools compared with some other parts of England.

How much of the difference in vacancy levels is down to challenges in filling posts leading to higher re-advertisement levels is difficult to quantify without each vacancy having a unique reference number: something this blog has long advocated, and the DfE might want to consider now it has had a year of managing its own vacancy site. Incidentally, the DfE site still only contains a fraction of the number of vacancies found each day on TeachVac. Why the teacher associations haven’t protested at this waste of government money is something I haven’t been able to fathom.

The numbers in the table also suggest that the government’s policy of rewarding excellence in teacher preparation might be sound in one respect, but isn’t delivering the teachers where they are needed by the schools.

The government might need to rethink a policy that doesn’t provide enough teachers for the fastest growing parts of England. If a London Allowance is available for teachers, why is it not available for trainees? Do new graduates joining the civil service or the police suffer the same fate as trainee teachers in London? Even with bursary payments, rates are set at a national level and there is also the need for most to pay tuition fees while in training as a teacher.

 

Is the teacher job market changing?

Earlier this week Will Hazell, the relatively new education reporter for the i newspaper and a former TES journalist, produced a piece about agencies charging schools a ‘recruitment fee’ after signing up teachers looking for jobs. Since governments of all complexions have been happy to leave teacher recruitment as a free market activity, why wouldn’t commercial organisations aim to help schools solve a recruitment issues for a price. After all, schools have been paying local authorities, the TES and other newspapers to place job adverts for many years. Indeed,  even search agencies are also not a new phenomenon in the marketplace. In addition, there are other new approaches to recruitment as schools seek direct marketing and MATs use central recruitment pages for all their schools.

However, what might be acceptable as a fringe activity affecting only a small number of schools can become a matter of public concern if a greater number of schools are involved and the sums being made reach significant amounts.

As I have written before on this blog, why wouldn’t busy teachers and trainees take the bait offered by agencies if it makes their life easier? Selling yourself on every application form you complete takes far more time compared with filling out just one registration form per agency you register with and is a no brainer, especially with the amount of work teachers and trainees face during term-times.

Even where jobs are easy to find, because the supply exceeds demand, teachers can benefit from a system that reduces their need to complete a series of application forms on the off chance they might come second in an interview. But all this costs schools money. Even so, advertising hasn’t traditionally be free, and can take up more time an effort if there either isn’t much interest and either a re-advertisement is necessary or there are lots of applications and time has to be spent by a group of staff short-listing candidates for interview. These costs need to be set against any finders fee.

In the past, I have pointed out that knowing the state of the job market helps schools to choose the most cost-effective path to recruitment. Want a business studies teacher in London or the Home Counties, then paying an agency on a ‘no find, no fee’ basis might be cost effective from the end of February onwards. Want a PE teacher or a historian at the same time of year, and agencies might still be cost effective in saving staff time sorting through lots of applications, especially with the risk of ensuring there is no discrimination in your short-listing process.

So, should there be a public sector registration point where candidates must register if they want a teaching post, and that can manage supply and demand more effectively than the market?

TeachVac already knows where the bulk of the jobs are and can offer schools a service telling them how many potential applicants have been match with a vacancy. TeachVac can also tell candidates how many jobs in a selected area meet their parameters in a given time period, and also advise when a candidate’s search area is not wide enough for them to expect to have a good chance of securing a teaching post. This data changes as the school-year progresses.

At present, TeachVac offers its service free to both schools and those seeking teaching jobs. Providing the data about jobs to both schools and teachers has a cost, but it wouldn’t be very high; perhaps £5 per search. Let me know what you think?

 

TSM Works, but only if trainees are recruited

As regular reads will know, I have been a student of the government’s process for deciding how many teachers to train each year ever since the late 1980s. Indeed, my first correspondence with the Department, and its civil servants, was on this very issue after a report identifying the mechanism used was published by what was then still known and the Stationery Office.

For a long time soon after start of the Blair government, the workings of the Teacher Supply Model or TSM as it’s usually referred to, went under cover and were not generally shared with the wider public until David Laws, as a Minister in the coalition, added the TSM to the list of open government actions. Since then it has been available to all that are interested: not many are I suspect.

All this is a rather long-winded way of paying tribute to the present generation of civil servants that mange the current version of the model. Using TeachVac data on vacancies advertised across England between January 2019 and the start of September, it becomes obvious that where the TSM number was met during recruitment into training for secondary sector subjects there were probably sufficient trainees to meet most of the demand from schools for teachers. This is despite the increase in pupil numbers again this year.

Subject 2019 demand for trainees
History 50%
PE 46%
Geography 51%
Languages 30%
Art -1%
RE -11%
Mathematics -11%
Computer Studies + IT -14%
All Sciences 12%
Music -49%
English 12%
D&T -266%
Business Studies -333%

Source TeachVac

Now I am not going to reveal how TeachVac exactly works out the relationship between vacancies as a measure of demand and the TSM number, but it should be clear from the table that in those subjects where there was significant over-recruitment last September, such as PE, sciences – thorough biology, but not chemistry or physics- and history and geography, there has been no problems for schools.

At the other end of the spectrum are business studies and design and technology where there was big gap in recruitment last year and schools have been challenged to find teachers in these subjects, often having to re-advertise a vacancy. This problem of re-advertisements just makes the issue seem even worse than it actually is.

As I have pointed out in the past, asking schools to allocate a unique number to each vacancy until the post was filled would solve this problem at a stroke and provide useful data about the quantum of re-advertisements, and the schools most likely to need to re-advertise. We can but hope that with the DfE’s own vacancy site, this will be something civil servants will consider.

So, congratulations to the TSM team at Sanctuary Buildings, but not to those responsible for planning how to recruit enough teachers to meet the identified needs. Why this issue still doesn’t receive the same attention as the threat of a medicine shortage after Brexit isn’t clear to me. After all, the education of the next generation of citizens is vital to the health of this country as much as any other function of government.

Indeed, unless something is done, teacher supply will still be an issue long after the outcome of Brexit is consigned to history.

Uncertain Times

One of the consequences of the prorogation of parliament has been the cancellation of the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession that was scheduled for the 9th September. Below is the paper I would have presented to the APPG meeting. The text represents my first look at what might happen to the teacher labour market in 2020.

APPG Labour Market for Teachers: A first look at the outcome for September 2020.

In 2020, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act that brought state schooling to the whole population for the first time in our history.

The job market at the start of September 2019 is probably facing another year where the supply of teachers will not meet the demand, especially in many secondary subjects, and most notably across the South of England. The further North and West in England you move away from London, and in much of the classroom teacher market in the primary sector, there is less pressure overall on supply, but shortages in specific subjects remain, especially for January 2020 appointments.

However, the picture might change quite radically post-Brexit on 31st October. If there is a general slowdown in the world economy in the autumn and through to the start of 2020, as many economists seem to be expecting, this may be good news for schools. Recessions in the past have meant fewer teachers leaving the profession and more seeking to either train as a teacher, as other career avenues recede, or return to teaching as a secure, if not well-paid, profession. Additionally, if demand internationally for teachers from England reduces that may help retain teachers and reduce wastage rates, especially amongst teachers with 5-7 years of experience.

At present, reading the runes of teacher preparation courses starting this September that will provide the bulk of new entrants into the labour market in 2020, the picture is still one of shortages. In mid-August 135 preparation courses in London had vacancies, compared with only five in the North East of England.

As a result of this analysis, there are three possible scenarios for the teacher labour market in 2020:

Continuing shortages

Assuming no changes to the supply situation, and a cash injection into schools that is not entirely absorbed by increased salaries for the existing workforce, then the present supply crisis will continue and could intensify in some subjects and the parts of the country already most challenged by teacher shortages and increases in the secondary school population. This will make it the longest running supply crisis since the early 1970s.

A return to normal market conditions

As the supply of new entrants will be less than required to meet the demands of schools in 2020, this state of affairs is only likely to occur if both the rate of departure by the present workforce slows down and there is an increase in teachers seeking to return to work in state schools. A worsening economic and geopolitical situation, especially in the Middle East and in China might be catalysts for such an outcome, as might less that fully funded salary increase for teachers used as an incentive to help attract more recruits in the future into teaching as a career. In the short-term for 2020, any pay increase would likely attract returners in greater numbers if accompanied by improvements in workload and pupil behaviour initiatives.

More teachers than vacancies

This situation usually only occurs during a significant recession, such as that experienced ten years ago after the financial meltdown. It is extremely unlikely scenario for 2020, unless EU teachers also opt to remain teaching in England post-Brexit rather than return home, and there is a flood of returners to teaching concerned about redundancies elsewhere in the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. Such a scenario would also lead to increased applications for teacher preparation courses making it a more likely prospect for the labour market of 2021 than in 2020.